There is a magnificent Greek word used 155 times in the New Testament. That word is charis - it is translated grace. It means a favor bestowed; it means a generous benefit freely given. The sense of it in the New Testament is that it means a favor bestowed by God through His power to transform a person’s life, starting at salvation and going on from there. Let me say that again. It means a favor bestowed by God through His power to transform a person’s life, starting at salvation and going on from there.
Grace is a dynamic force, a dynamic and benevolent power, that applies the goodness of God and the resources of God to our lives, to save us, to keep us, to enable us, to deliver us, to sanctify us, to glorify us. All of God’s good favors to His children are given through the means of this beneficent goodness called grace.
In Ephesians chapter 2, it says, “God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus, in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
The purpose for a gracious salvation is that God might be unendingly gracious to us and bestow on us the surpassing riches of His grace forever. Every benefit given by God to you and to me is by grace, and always and only this grace comes through Jesus Christ. One of the most wonderful statements about our Lord was that inspired word from John, who wrote in John 1:14 of Christ, “He was full of grace.” That wondrous fact of His being full of the attribute of grace was followed by an even more thrilling reality for us, and it says in verse 16, “For of His fullness have all we received, and grace upon grace.”
So, John says, He was full of grace, and we have received that fullness, even grace accumulated. We accumulate grace for every feature of life. There is not a day that goes by in your Christian experience that you are not the recipient of God’s grace. It is grace that upholds your salvation. It is grace that gives you victory in temptation. It is grace that makes the Word live. It is grace that draws you into communion and prayer. It is grace that makes you useful for service. It is grace that enables your gift to function in the Spirit.
Those who are in Christ have received of the fullness of the one whom they have received, even Christ, who dwells within them. And therefore, available to us is an accumulated grace that is unlimited; grace for every need. Luke said, writing in Acts 4:33 of the early church, that they were experiencing abundant grace. Paul informs us that believers are standing in grace - and may I add, they’re standing head-deep in it. It is the very atmosphere we breathe.
In fact, in Romans 5:17, he called it an abundance of grace, and as I read in Ephesians 2:7, he says it’s the riches of His grace. James, not wanting to be left out, adds to what Luke wrote and what Paul wrote that whatever great need we have, God gives a greater grace. And Peter, never wanting to be left out, chimes in that we have received the manifold, or multi-faceted, or multi-colored, grace of God. It is an abundance. It is a richness. It is a multiplied grace.
From all of that, you get the distinct idea that God has not skimped on grace; not at all. Grace for salvation, grace for sanctification, grace for service, grace for suffering. In all areas, His benevolent kindness, His benevolent good favor, gives to us the transforming power we need to be sustained in every dimension of spiritual life. But nowhere is the magnificence of grace more wonderfully stated than in 2 Corinthians, and so this morning I want to draw you to 2 Corinthians chapter 9, first of all, and then over to chapter 12.
Second Corinthians chapter 9; please, would you notice verse 8? This has to be the most magnanimous, comprehensive statement about grace in all of holy Scripture. This is what it says: “And God is able” - or is powerful, is capable – “to make all grace abound to you, in order that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.” An absolutely incredible, almost unfathomable, statement, filled with superlatives - all grace abounding, that always, having all sufficiency, in all things, you may have an abundance for all good deeds.
That verse alone would indicate that there is sufficient grace for every issue of spiritual life - all grace - in profuse, multi-colored, multi-faceted abundance and richness. Grace to understand the Word, grace to wisely apply it, grace to overcome temptation, grace to overcome sin, grace to endure suffering, grace to endure disappointment, grace to endure pain, grace to obey the Lord, grace to serve Him effectively, grace through all aspects of life.
Is it any wonder that he calls it - down in verse 14 of this same chapter - “surpassing grace”; surpassing grace - it surpasses every need. And he says the surpassing grace of God is in you, and then he cannot restrain himself; he says in verse 15, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.” What a promise, what a gift. May I hasten to add that we are in desperate need of all the grace that there is? Job said - and it was obviously true – man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward.
Life is filled with trouble. Life is filled with one disaster after another. Everybody struggles. We all struggle all of our life long, to cope with problems. We struggle to be faithful, to be joyful, to be effective in serving Christ, against all of the pressure that would take away our effectiveness, our joy, our usefulness. We are fallen. Our flesh is corrupt. Though our souls have been redeemed, we live incarcerated, as it were, in the prison house of unredeemed human flesh.
And as prisoners in fallen flesh, living in a fallen world system, in a fallen cursed universe, we face incessant trouble, even in endeavoring to serve the Lord. In fact, sometimes we have to admit that since we became Christians our trouble is increased. We have difficulty in life non-stop. The question I want to pose this morning is simply this: is there sufficient grace available to us to help us through all our troubles? Simple question. Is there sufficient grace available to us to help us through all our troubles?
Now, at first that seems an obvious question, but it isn’t, apparently, to many, even in the church. There are people today who would tell us that, “Well, the Bible, and the grace that comes through it, and through the resource of God, Christ and the Holy Spirit, is not really sufficient.” They tell us that by reminding us that if we’re really going to get help with our troubles, we probably need psychology; psychiatry, maybe; certainly therapy; surely counseling; maybe medication.
And if we can avail ourselves of those twentieth century post-Freudian resources, we can somehow fill in the lack of necessary resource that is otherwise unavailable to us in our Christian faith. That sounds like a horrendous statement, but it is precisely what the church has bought today. The church has bought into the idea that the serious problems of Christians are beyond the realm of the spiritual, and they call for the psychological techniques that are being offered in our society.
Psychological clinics abound, offering themselves as superior to the church; certainly, psychological counselors are superior to pastors in solving the deep problems of people. They offer psychologically trained personnel skilled in human wisdom theory and therapy as the ones who can really solve everyone’s problem. Now, I want to acknowledge hastily that we all benefit from other Christians coming alongside us. We benefit from their encouragement, we benefit from their wisdom, we benefit from their support, we benefit from their prayers. We benefit from them just being there to sustain us in our difficulty.
I’m not talking about that; there are many fine Christian people who come alongside and help. But there is an underlying belief found - that’s found its way into the church that somehow grace is not sufficient, and there is a need for a psychological orientation. Prayer, confidence in God, His Word, they tell us, is a very shallow and inadequate method of pursuing well-being and may even be a very dangerous prescription.
When our church was sued by Mr. Nally and went through ten years of litigation, the intent of that litigation was to prove Christians, pastors, churches, inept, inadequate in counseling, and more than that, downright deadly, and the only people who were skilled enough to deal with people’s serious problems are outside the church community, trained in psychology. They said pastors, Christian people, churches in general, are absolutely inadequate.
They give these simplistic answers about the Bible and prayer, and are potentially to be liable for such foolish, reckless disregard for the well-being of people who come to them in trouble. Is that the case? Do we have sufficient grace, or do we not? Is the Word of God so insufficient - which is perfect, totally transforming the whole person, according to Psalm 19? Is the wisdom from above - which confounds all the wisdom of man and calls it foolishness - so insufficient?
Is the Lord Jesus Christ - in whom we are complete, in whom we have all things that pertain to life and godliness and have been made partakers of the divine nature and possessors of all His fullness - so insufficient? Is the Holy Spirit - who has filled us with all strength in the inner man and all the fullness of God so that we can do exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or think according to His resurrection power - so insufficient?
Is the package of spiritual resources we have received in salvation - which enables us to do all things through the power of our Christ - unable to sufficiently give us victory in life? When Paul said in 2 Corinthians 3:5, “Our sufficiency is from God,” was he ignorant? Beloved, I submit to you that according to the words of Paul in Galatians 5:4, we have fallen from grace. What a tragic delusion has infiltrated the church, in which people no longer see the divine grace as sufficient for spiritual needs; what fools people are.
The resources are ours in Christ, and if we come to the throne of grace, where grace is dispensed in its abundance, we receive all we need. Now, to help us correct this sad delusion about sufficiency, I want you to do a little mining with me this morning. I want to take you to a mine that has so much treasure in it you won’t possibly be able to carry it all away. That mine is in 2 Corinthians chapter 12, verses 7 to 10.
Beginning at verse 7 - 2 Corinthians 12: “And because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me-- to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’
“Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weakness, that the power of Christ might dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” This is one of the most powerful texts in all the New Testament. The whole section of 2 Corinthians 10 through 13 is probably the most emotionally charged text Paul ever wrote; it literally bleeds with his heart.
Here, he lays his inner man bare, in the midst of severe attacks on him and his ministry. His integrity has been called into question by his enemies. His loyalty has been attacked. His ability to lead and make decisions has been questioned. His love has been doubted, and even denied. This is probably the greatest single barrage of abuse that Paul ever received in his life, and it was being headed up by leaders in the Corinthian church. Paul knew about suffering; shipwrecks, threatening his life, floggings with whips, beatings with rods tied together, narrow escapes for his life.
He knew about terrors of all kinds. He knew about the pain of being in stocks, where his limbs were stretched to the limit and their muscles were then taut and cramped for hour upon hour. He knew about filthy, stinking, wretched jails. He knew about foul food. He knew about torture. He knew about all of that. But no pain was more severe to him than the care of all the churches - he says that in chapter 11. What does he mean?
Does he mean administrative duties? Not on your life. What he means is the difficulty of working with people who have a high potential, because of your love commitment, of wounding you. The greatest pain the man ever knew came in his relationships; people who could disappoint him, people who would reject him, people who would fail him, people who would wound him, who would criticize him, who would betray him, people who would misunderstand him, people who would turn on the one who loved them the most.
He has to say to the Corinthians in this letter, “I’ll love you more even though you hate me.” Frankly, the deepest pain you’ll ever know, and the deepest pain I’ll ever know, is not physical; it’s not material. It doesn’t have to do with our physical body, and it doesn’t have to do with our material or economic or circumstantial life patterns. The greatest pain we will ever know is relational. It is the potential of people to devastate us, to destroy us, to abuse us.
And, apart from internal personal guilt, which has to be the greatest pain - but that is personal and internal - the most serious pain we suffer in the world comes from unfulfilled and devastated relationships. No disease is as painful as rejection. No disease is as painful as false accusation. No disease is as painful as misrepresentation, betrayal, hatred - and Paul was getting it all. So, we would expect Paul to feel the deepest trouble in his soul, and confront the most taxing problem in his life, when being attacked the most violently, and to express the deepest pain when suffering through such an experience, and that’s what he does in this text.
A man in the midst of being unloved, unappreciated, untrusted; his love was maligned and unrequited. His integrity was questioned, his fruitfulness was denied, his honesty was attacked. His sacrificial service was mocked, his credentials were scoffed at, and his authority was rejected; and they were coming to him - the people he loved the most - with this kind of abuse. There were some leaders in charge of this and he refers to them through this section, and maybe one in particular was leading the whole parade to try to destroy his ministry, and so, the dear, sacrificial, humble apostle had been repeatedly battered.
After having spent a year and a half in the Corinthian church - a year and a half of his life to that church, and the church is in shambles; opposition to him is very strong, and his heart is broken. You see, when a person puts his life on the line, unselfishly sacrificing for people and they hate him in return, that’s the deepest pain life can bear. Now, counselors’ offices, psychologists’ offices, are filled with people who are suffering from this stuff.
They’re misunderstood, they’re unappreciated, they’re rejected, they’re abused - this is always the deepest hurt - not feeling wanted, not feeling loved - because we were created for relationships. Paul had known this before, by the way, and our dear Lord had personally come to Paul to affirm His love in the moments of his deepest pain. When he was first in Corinth and he suffered some very, very difficult things, it says in chapter 18 verse 9, “The Lord said to Paul in the midst of a vision at night, ‘Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city.’”
You know, when Paul needed such grace that it took a personal appearance of Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ showed up to confirm him, to encourage him. The Lord appeared to him four times in his life - once on the Damascus Road, three other times when he had deep, deep need, and always in a time of severe persecution. Once when he was imprisoned in Jerusalem, once when he was stoned and left for dead outside a city in Galatia, once when he had just felt the slings and arrows of the Corinthians - in each of those occasions, the Lord came to him in a personal way.
God gave him sufficient grace. All the Christians who run off to some counselor because they want instant fulfillment - instant gratification, instant satisfaction with their lot in life, and they want somebody to fix it, so that it’ll revolve around them in the orbit that they would like it to be in - need to learn that the means of sufficient grace is taught us by Paul, not by human wisdom. Paul then is in a deep, deep time of trouble, and he learns some marvelous lessons; let’s learn them with him.
Lesson number one: God wants His children humble. That’s lesson number one: God wants His children humble and uses suffering. God wants His children humble and uses suffering; look at verse 7: “And because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations” – four times I have had a personal visit from the living resurrected and glorified Jesus Christ; because of the surpassing greatness of those revelations, the extraordinary character of those – “for this reason” - what reason? – “to keep me from exalting myself!”
Because I have had such uncommon experiences - private audiences with the living Christ - to keep me from being exalted in my own mind from such experience – “there was given me” - he says; notice that little phrase – “there was given me.” We can add there, if you want, “by God”, because that’s the implication. It was a gift unsolicited by Paul, believe me. And I’ll tell you something else, it was a gift that Satan really wouldn’t want to give, because Satan doesn’t want to do anything in your life that will what?
Humble you; he wants to do everything in your life that will exalt you. That’s why it’s so foolish on a number of counts for people to do everything they can to try to eliminate suffering out of their life, and blaming Satan for the suffering, that might be exactly the reverse of the reality: God has brought Satan to bring the suffering under God’s authority to produce the humility that Satan would never want to do if he weren’t acting directly under divine orders from God.
“There was given me by God” - a gift unsolicited, one Satan would not want to give because it produced humility, not pride, and he calls it “a thorn in the flesh”. Now, when you hear that phrase you think of the last time you cut the rose bush, don’t you? And a little thorn stuck your finger. No. No, the word here means a stake, a stake, S-T-A-K-E, a sharpened wooden shaft used to impale someone. This is not a tiny little thorn that pricks your finger; this is a wooden shaft that you impale someone on, you literally drive it through them.
Please note this: it is not a thorn in the flesh, it’s not the Greek preposition en. It is a thorn for the flesh; it is a stake to be driven through my flesh to control it, because my flesh has a tendency to boast, and to be proud, and so there was given me by God a stake to impale my flesh. He further describes it - please note - “a messenger of Satan.” Now, there are probably as many explanations of that as there are days in the month, and just about every commentator that you read will offer you another one but let me see if I can’t make a very simple straight-forward interpretation.
At first reading, if you take it at face value, it’s very simple: “a messenger of Satan”. We would assume, then, that it would be someone whom Satan sent with a message - fair enough? Someone sent from Satan. That, I think, is the correct interpretation. The word messenger is angelos. Now, listen to this: that word is used 188 times in the New Testament; every time - all 188 - it refers to a person; either an earthly person, a human, or an angelic person, but always a person.
That’s 188 times. I doubt that it’s 187 times a person, and one time here an eye disease. Simply, what you have here is a person. By the way, that word also is used in Old Testament usage - the word thorn - and four times the word thorn is used in the Old Testament: once a circumstance, three times a person. So, both the word thorn and the word messenger lend to us the idea that this is somebody, and I’m personally convinced it was the ringleader of the Corinthian opposition.
Let me take you to another passage. Turn back to chapter 11 verse 14 – “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” - verse 15 – “Therefore it’s not surprising if his” - what? – “servants” - or messengers – “also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end shall be according to their deeds.” Now, Satan’s sending out his messengers, and I believe these are persons; I believe this is very likely a reference to a leader of this abuse in the Corinthian church.
This effective enemy was attacking Paul as a servant of Satan. What did he do? “To buffet me”; to buffet me - the word means to torment, but it means more than that; it literally comes from the root word for knuckles; knuckles. It sometimes could be related to what we call fisticuffs. it is a word which means to deliver blows to the face. It was used to speak of that in Matthew 26:67, Mark 14:65, of the soldiers punching Jesus in the face, same word; 1 Corinthians 4:11, it’s used of Paul being punched.
So, he says, “God has commanded Satan to dispatch this guy to punch me in the face.” What? “God has commanded Satan to dispatch this guy to lead this abuse against me.” Why? “To keep me from” - what? – “exalting myself.” It has a humbling purpose. Trials have many purposes; many purposes. Trials test the strength of our faith. Trials wean us from earthly things. Trials call us to eternal hope. Trials reveal what and who we really love. Trials teach us to value God’s blessing. Trial - trials enable us to help others who suffer. Trials produce endurance, which equips us for greater usefulness.
But mostly, trials humble us; and God wants His children humble, to the degree that He will allow Satan to torment His children if it assists in their humiliation. Go to a counselor, go to a psychologist, and he’ll try to elevate your opinion of yourself; go to God, and He’ll try to deflate your opinion of yourself, and He’ll even use Satan to do it. Bless God for what humbles you, for James said, “He gives grace to the humble.”
Lesson number two: God is the only one to whom we can go in the suffering; God is the only to whom we can go in the suffering. Look at verse 8: “Concerning this” – “I went to my therapist.” No. No, it’s not what it says. “Concerning this” – “I attended a seminar.” No. “Concerning this” – “I read a book.” No. “Concerning this I entreated the Lord.” “Concerning this I rebuked Satan.” No. No. “Concerning this I entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me.”
In the time of his deepest need, his deepest pain, his severest trial, he didn’t go to Timothy, he didn’t go to Titus, he didn’t go to a committee, he didn’t go anywhere but to God. Why? Because it is God who sits on the throne of what? Of grace. When the delight of his life was gone, when the joy of his service was lost, he didn’t seek a formula, he didn’t seek a therapy to fix it, he didn’t seek a technique, he didn’t seek human wisdom, he went to God.
By the way, the word entreated, the verb there is used frequently in the gospels for the appeals of the sick. He went to God, and he went, it says, three times; three times. Interesting note, chapter 13 verse 1 - “This is the third time I’m coming to you” - this is the third letter he wrote. He wrote 1 Corinthians, then he wrote another letter which is not biblical, we don’t have it, and then he wrote this third letter.
He says, “I wrote you three times,” here he says, “Three times I went to God,” it seems to me that every time the trouble really got heavy, he did two things, went to God and wrote them a letter. On three separate occasions he prayed to Jesus his Lord, who was the source of all his grace needed - three times. He was persistent; he met that condition. He was believing; certainly, he believed. I mean, he went to God and prayed that God would get this messenger of Satan off his back.
He was tired of this guy who was detracting, abusing, saying terrible things about him, accusing him, stirring up churches against him; he was really weary of all of that, and he knew it was Satanic. He wasn’t so foolish as to think he could command Satan; nobody in the Bible ever did that, and no one in the New Testament ever cast Satan out of himself - or of any other believer, for that matter. Christ and the apostles cast Satan out of unbelievers.
He didn’t rebuke Satan, he didn’t bind Satan, he didn’t do anything like that. He went to the Lord who can do that. He believed, his prayer was persistent. He met all of the conditions that people tell us today are conditions for answered prayer, and he had to go back three times, and what was his request? “That it might depart from me.” He didn’t blame the man. He didn’t blame the man in Corinth, he didn’t blame the people who were against him, he didn’t even blame Satan.
He went right to God, because he knew God controls men and demons. It’s foolish to go to men. It’s even more foolish to go to demons and talk to them about it, command them or rebuke - go to God. He controls them both. What source do you go to in the time of your deepest trouble? I think people don’t do this because they don’t have the kind of relationship with God that is deep enough to draw them there. What lesser sources do you go to?
We’re selfish, we’re carnal, we’re ignorant, or we’re impatient, or we don’t really want to come into the presence of God because we’re not sure we want what God wants for us. Paul faced his greatest trial knowing God uses suffering to humble us and knowing only God could grant the grace he needed in the suffering. That leads us to the third lesson. God alone will provide grace sufficient for the trial. That’s the third lesson: God alone can and will provide grace sufficient for the trial.
Verse 9 - this is God’s answer to his prayer - “He said to me” - literally in the perfect tense, “He has said to me”, which means every time I’ve been there He said the same thing, and He keeps saying it - “My grace is sufficient for you.” That is a standing answer; that is a standing answer. After three times, he said, I dropped the issue. I got the same answer. God answered – now, notice this - not by removing the pain, not by removing the trouble, but by increasing the grace to what? Endure it.
God didn’t want to remove the trouble because the trouble had what effect? It humbled him. Secondly, it had the effect of drawing him to God. Thirdly, it had the effect of putting God’s grace on display. All the benefits were there. Why remove what generates such immense benefit - humility, communion, and God’s glory on display, and sufficient grace for such profound trouble as this? Yes, He gave relief, but not by removal; rather by sufficient grace to persevere through the necessary humbling process that drew him so tightly to commune with his God.
Paul wanted that stake on which his flesh was impaled pulled out. God wanted it in; God wanted it to stay. That answer, beloved, is the cornerstone of Christian living. We’ll have trouble, we’ll have difficulty, we’ll have temptation, we’ll have pain in this life. It is inevitable, and it is useful for our humility, and it is useful for our fellowship with God because it draws us to Him, and it is useful for His glory to be put on display.
What glory does God get if you’re happy without trouble? God never promises to remove it, but to give you the sufficient grace to endure it with joy; sufficient grace. So, lesson number one: God wants His children humble and uses suffering to produce it. Lesson number two: He is the only source to go to in our suffering. Lesson number three: He will provide sufficient grace to endure it, “for no trial has taken you but such is as common to man: and God is faithful, who will not permit you to be tempted above that you are able; but will with the temptation make a way out.”
Lesson number four: God perfects power out of that suffering; God perfects power out of that suffering. The deepest pain and difficulty of life produces humility, and no one is effective for God who isn’t humble. The deepest pain of life produces communion with God, and in that is the sweetest experience of Christian living. Difficulty, trouble, the deepest pain of life allows God to pour out grace to sustain, which puts His grace on display and brings Him all the glory.
And trouble in life, weakness, allows God’s power to work through us. Notice verse 9 again; having said, “My grace is sufficient for you,” he says, “for power is perfected in weakness.” What a statement; what a statement. The suffering that humbles us, the suffering that forces us to God in prayer, the suffering that makes us cry out for a grace to endure, becomes the very source of power in our lives. Listen to this: it is when the Christian has lost human ability to deal with his difficulty - it is when the Christian is weak, without resources, and destitute, and left totally to trust in God’s power in grace to sustain him, that he becomes a channel through which God’s power can flow.
I praise God for adversity. I praise God for the messengers of Satan sent to drive a stake through my flesh. I have found my power - whatever of it God has graciously bestowed - through weakness. Beloved, Christ’s grace is sufficient not because it eliminates weakness, but because it produces a human weakness through which a divine power surges; no one is too weak to be powerful, but some people are too strong. There may be a so-called painless dentistry, but there is no such force as painless power.
Whatever kind of power you name, you will find it to be something which is developed at an expense. It requires pressure, fire, constriction, tribulation. For example, water power comes from the pressure of accumulated masses of water backed up by a dam and forced through turbines which generate electricity. Steam power comes by fire, which heats the water until it expands and creates pressure in a cylinder. Electric power is by constriction, which acts by a negative and positive current causing motion.
Gasoline power is the explosion of volatile gasoline in a chamber called a cylinder, where that exploded gasoline expands and pushes the cylinder head to create motion. And it’s a similar kind of thing, where in the spiritual sphere, physical suffering, mental anguish, create a pressure that produces power. What was Paul’s response? Back to verse 9. “Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weakness, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”
He doesn’t love the abuse; he’s not a masochist. He knows it is Satanic, but he sees it as a means by which God releases His power through his life, because when Paul has lost all his reputation, he can’t ride on his reputation. When he has lost all his physical strength, he can’t depend on his physical strength. He therefore must be completely dependent on the power of his message and his life, and that is an unarguable issue.
You may criticize the man, you may criticize what he does and how he does it, but you have difficulty if in his weakness he is powerful for God. He loves the grace and he loves the power that he experiences in his weakness, so he says, “I’ll rather boast about my weakness, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” As a result, a life principle to live by is given in verse 10: “Therefore I am well content” - with what, Paul? Prosperity, health, wealth, happiness, success? No.
“I am well content with weaknesses, insults, distresses, persecutions, difficulties, for Christ’s sake.” You say, “What? Paul, you need to go to the counselor; he can fix all that.” No, no. I don’t want to go to the counselor and get it fixed. I’m content with it, because there’s this principle that when I’m weak” - what? – “then I’m strong.” Charles Hadden Spurgeon tells of an occasion when he was riding home one evening after a heavy day’s work, and feeling weary and depressed, and the verse came to mind, “My grace is sufficient for you.”
And he immediately compared himself to a little fish in the Thames River, apprehensive, lest drinking so many pints of water in the river each day, he might drink the Thames dry, and hearing Father Thames say to him, “Drink away, little fish; my stream is sufficient for you.” And then he thought of a little mouse in the granaries of Egypt, afraid, lest it might by daily consumption of the corn it needed, exhaust the supplies and starve to death. And Joseph comes along, and sensing its fear, says, “Cheer up, little mouse; my granaries are sufficient for you.”
And then he thought of a man climbing some high mountain to reach its lofty summit and dreading, lest he might exhaust all the oxygen in the atmosphere by breathing up there, and the Creator booms His voice out of heaven, “Breathe away, old man, and fill your lungs; my atmosphere is sufficient.” God’s grace is sufficient for every need of every life, and more.
Father, we thank You for our time this morning, precious time in Your Word, and the reminder that Your grace is sufficient. We think of the words of the song. “He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater / He sendeth more strength when labors increase / To added affliction, He addeth His mercy / To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace / When we have exhausted our store of endurance / When our strength has failed e’er the day is half done / When we reach the end of our hoarded resources / Our Father’s full giving is only begun.”
Why? “His love has no limit, His grace has no measure / His power has no boundary known unto men / For out of His infinite riches in Jesus / He giveth and giveth and giveth again.” For that, we bless You, with thanksgiving. Amen.
This article is also available and sold as a booklet.